While some people dream their whole lives of reaching the heights of fame and seeing the world, Nathan Foley has already done so. Nine times to be exact. Not bad for a 38-year-old. But that’s part and parcel of being one of the most beloved performers in Australia.
Anyone over the age of 20 will remember Nathan as part of the original line-up of globally successful children’s band Hi-5, which took over Aussie screens, stereos and children’s hearts after the first episode aired in 1998.
Over the following 10 years, he scooped up three Logies, five ARIA awards and a Helpmann award with the neon clothing clad quintet. But far from disappearing after he left the band a decade later, he has gone from strength to strength. And that’s because he’s not just a triple threat, he’s some sort of hybrid that makes him a superb all-round entertainer.
Seriously, have you heard of anyone else who is a singer/songwriter, dancer, MC, actor, musical theatre star, photographer and an inspirational speaker—let alone someone who does it all well? But Nathan Foley is all this and more.
After 28 years in the industry and his run with Hi-5, Nathan has released six albums, joined musical stage shows including Grease on the Beach and Mamma Mia, and has won praise from some of the biggest names in music and film, including Kelly Roland, Natalie Imbruglia and Toni Collette.
In short, Nathan has the world at his feet. And no, it’s not a cliché. The latest line on his resume is his job as guest entertainer on cruise ships. For the last two years he has travelled the seas sharing his tunes as a headliner, and to say he’s good at it is an understatement—he was awarded Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year in 2016.
“It’s one of the most amazing jobs in the world,” says Nathan to Warcry. “I’m living the best of many, many worlds. I’m travelling and seeing the world, but I’m also able to showcase my solo show to a broader range of people.”
Aside from the obvious perks of the job, he says the real highlight is performing for such a diverse group of people.
“Sometimes it can become tiring with the travel, but it kind of makes up for it when you’re out there showcasing yourself and you’re getting amazing responses from people around the world,” he says. “It’s an amazing journey to be accepted by all different cultures and different nationalities.”
This is especially important to Nathan, as a descendant of the Yuin people on his mother’s side. His Aboriginal heritage has prompted him to become an inspirational speaker and a co-host on NITV (National Indigenous Television).
The ability to connect with his audience irrespective of their differences or culture is essential to Nathan, and this spirit of inclusion became ingrained in him from a very young age.
Growing up in The Salvation Army, he was dedicated (christened) at Campbelltown corps (church) weeks after he was born, and became immersed in Salvo life at age seven when his mother married his stepfather—making Nathan a fourth generation Salvationist. In fact his great-grandparents, Captain and Mrs George Walker, were missionaries in China.
“My grandparents gave me my first Bible, which I still have today,” he says. “My stepdad played the cornet in The Salvation Army band at Dulwich Hill Corps.”
This faith still plays a role in Nathan’s life, giving him strength. “We’re all going to have some sort of troubles in our lives, so sometimes it’s good to feel like there’s some kind of higher being that we can pray to,” he shares.
Life is still full of possibilities for Nathan—and he says a stint in the US breaking into film and TV is on the cards, as well as another album. Plus he’s just released a book of his photography titled Nathan Foley Gallery.
But in the meantime, he’s back on the cruise ship, sharing his joy with everyone he encounters.
And that’s just the way he likes it.